For independent filmmakers, the story revolving Mark Cuban’s Berkeley-based Landmark theater dropping Caveh Zahedi’s I Am A Sex Addict, a personal, little film that the director had once said he was simply going to distribute himself, shows just how insanely corporate the indie film world has become. indieWIRE’s story today only scratches the surface of what I can only expect is a battle being fought in glassy boardrooms in New York (corporate HQ of IFC Films, distribs of the movie), Philadelphia (Comcast, which refuses to work with Cuban), and Santa Monica (home of Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment, which owns Landmark, etc.).
The crazy thing is that this isn’t so much about money, as the indieWIRE story notes; it’s about trying to throw your power around. It’s about Cuban clashing with Comcast, trying to play hardball. I Am A Sex Addict is no more of a box office draw than Bubble was, but Cuban loves to draw publicity, create public spats and muscle his way around the business. I don’t know if Comcast is wrong to exclude Cuban’s HDNet channels from its service, but I do know these are the kinds of propietary, competitive battles that continue to dog an industry that is supposed to be about art.
In the meantime, indie film suffers. Cuban can say whatever he wants about helping small films reach theaters, but this is all about his monster-sized ego.
This is what happens when too few people control the resources in any business. Since Cuban owns the largest art-house theater circuit in the country, he can start forcing people to play by his rules. People have celebrated his “vertically integrated company,” but in some circles we’d call that an unfair monopoly. I don’t know enough about Comcast, but I’m sure they have similarly unchecked powers that need to be held accountable. This is what happens when we don’t treat corporations like the unethical, pathological, voracious and greedy criminals that they are.